Though Halloween is still several weeks away, chances are your children are eagerly anticipating the holiday, planning their costumes, and thinking about parties and trick-or-treating. If your child has special needs, Halloween can present some extra challenges. But none of these challenges are insurmountable. Check out these tips for a Happy Halloween!
Find the perfect costume
What child doesn’t love playing dress-up? Costumes provide children with the opportunity to pretend, fantasize and express their interests and creativity. If your child uses a wheelchair, incorporating the chair into her costume is a great way to go. Does he love NASCAR? Create a race-car from the wheelchair. Does she dream of being a princess? Turn her wheelchair into a coach. Check out Enabling Devices’ Halloween post from last year for more terrific ideas.
If your child has sensory issues, take care to choose a costume that fits comfortably and isn’t made of scratchy fabric that could spoil your child’s fun. That may mean avoiding store-bought costumes, masks, hats, face paint or other accessories that can irritate sensitive skin.
Prepare for the big day or night
Halloween is tons of fun, but it can also be kind of scary. If your child tends to become fearful or anxious, consider trick-or-treating during the day instead of at night, read books, sing songs and have discussions about what to expect during Halloween.
If your child has communication or social skills challenges, teach her what to say when neighbors answer the door, and practice how to give out candy when trick-or-treaters come to your door. If he uses a communication device, record a trick-or-treat message in time for the holiday.
Prior to Halloween, plot the route you will take when you trick-or-treat. There’s no need to take on the whole neighborhood. Even a few houses may be sufficient for your child.
Consider dietary needs
Halloween is especially challenging for children with special diets. But how do you help your child to avoid candy and other sugary treats when trick-or-treating or attending parties at school? Autismfile.com has some good suggestions. “Stick with family and friends when selecting which homes to visit for trick-or-treating. People aware of special diet needs or unique behaviors will be prepared for you and your child,” says their website. Alternatively, you can provide your neighbors with healthy treats in advance, and they can give them to your child when he comes to their door.
Keep track of trick-or-treaters
Children on the autism spectrum can sometimes be wanderers. Make sure you or another responsible adult accompanies children when they trick-or-treat, to avoid any misadventures and ensure safety for all.
Throw a party
Having your own Halloween celebration give you more control over how the holiday plays out. Your child can choose decorations, treats, music and party activities so it’s likely that her anxiety will be a great deal more manageable. If mobility, or other physical disabilities make trick-or-treating a challenge, partying at home, where your child is comfortable, may be a great way to remove any obstacles to fun.
Stay home if it’s right for your family
If Halloween shows up and your child isn’t in the mood, it’s OK to do Halloween “light.” Perhaps your child can have one friend over and they can watch a Halloween-themed movie and open the door for trick-or-treaters. If you sense that a successful Halloween is not in the cards this year, feel free to skip the festivities and stick with your child’s regular routine. Then, try again next year.